I hope the President is okay...
He’s one of my favorite television characters, President Bartlett is. And now that his MS has kicked into high gear, he’s in a wheelchair, unable to sign his own name, and barely able to move. The preview for next week showed him falling over in the bathroom. What will happen to the President? I’m almost ashamed to say that my children ask me every Thursday morning what happened on “The West Wing” the night before. Almost ashamed. The truth is that many very thought-provoking political discussions have begun as a result of me watching that show on Wednesdays and explaining it to the children during social studies class on Thursday. I always have to make sure that I get home in time to watch it. Tonight, my book club had it’s annual Christmas dinner at a local Chinese restaurant. I laughed out loud when the woman sitting next to me explained that she was checking her watch so often because she didn’t want to miss “The West Wing.”
I don’t know much about MS except that it is a progressively debilitating disease that eventually confines its sufferers to their beds, demands increased dependence on others, and because it has little or no effect on brain function, the mental and emotional anguish must be intense as the illness overtakes all of life. Apparently, at least according to the surgeon general on Air Force I with Bartlett, the paralysis and numbness begin gradually. It comes and goes. And it can be hidden in the early stages. I know someone who is currently struggling against the advancement of this awful affliction. In a video shown at our church a few months ago, she spoke about the great sadness of her children never knowing her as the vivacious, active, vibrant woman she used to be. She is such a strong woman whose body has rebelled against her heart’s desire to be the kind of wife and mother she has longed to be.
Of course, tonight’s episode has gotten me thinking. What dis-ease is quietly taking over me? What symptoms am I hiding? Like President Bartlett put his useless hand into his right pocket, am I putting a paralyzed emotion into a deep pocket of denial in order to avoid having to reveal the parts of me that aren’t working properly? Am I allowing the insensate nerve endings around my heart to atrophy in order to avoid having to deal with having it broken again and again by a careless friend, an irresponsible sibling, or a thoughtless stranger? Will I let things go so far without taking action that I too will be carried on a stretcher by a spouse or two children who should not have to take responsibility for my spiritual or emotional well-being? Am I honest enough to reveal my most personal trials and tribulations with anyone at all? Am I willing to risk the rejection, the criticism, and even the pity of others in exchange for a few true advocates and companions on this journey that is my life?
Will I reach out and ask for help when homeschooling, housekeeping, serving at church, and being a wife and mother become more than I can handle alone? Will I make tough and unpopular decisions to protect myself and my family when the mind and relationship-numbing drug of busyness threatens to anesthetize us completely? Will I decline invitations to holiday parties and choose quietly sitting in front of our tree instead? Will I forego yet another silly holiday movie and play Milles Bornes with the kids instead? Will I insist that we mark off family nights every week and put on our pajamas early, pop some popcorn, and watch old home videos together? Will I sleep late during Christmas break and replace an early morning Tae Bo session with full fat Pillsbury cinnamon rolls and Illy from the Bialetti with heaps of raw sugar – even just once? Will I admit when I’m losing the feeling in my soul and ask for time off to recuperate, be rehabilitated, and get “that lovin’ feeling again”? Trips to Spain and Italy serve as phenomenally effective therapy, but those are therapeutic remedies I can draw on only once per year. I will get away in a couple of Saturdays for an all day writing retreat; that’s right up my geeky alley. In between those more serious interventions, I will take time out daily for quiet reflection while burning my Rome-purchased cinnamon incense. I will take slow, lazy walks on balmy Charlotte afternoons (it was nearly 70 degrees here today) and have long talks with my kids about books, read them Bible stories, work on holiday cards for our Dominican and Swazi sponsor children, drive around our neighborhood at night looking at the holiday lighting extravaganzas that Charlotte loves to put together, sing Christmas carols, bake oatmeal-raisin-toffee cookies from scratch, laugh at the antics of our hamster, Buddy, and discuss the political and international ramifications of President Bartlett’s visit to China in a wheel chair.
See? I’m not always serious and religious. I sometimes watch television, too. Speaking of which, I might have to cut out early from a Christmas caroling session next Wednesday evening to make sure I’m back at home in time to see what happens next. This inquiring mind wants to know how Josh and CJ and Toby and that new blond press lady handle this new crisis. And with Alan Alda and Jimmy Smits in the cast now, I’m truly a goner. Hey, we all need an escape of some sort, don’t we???